Upstate Virtual Listening Tour

Transitioning from Crisis to Recovery

Ten at the Top is hosting a Virtual Listening Tour in the seven non-urban counties of the Upstate to provide an opportunity for leaders and stakeholders within the counties to share about their specific experiences and challenges related to COVID-19 and to help identify specific resources or areas where TATT and partners from across the region can help support local efforts as we transition from crisis to recovery mode. The input from each county session will be compiled into a regional overview and help inform efforts in the coming months.

Recaps from the meetings will be provided within a few days of the meeting; click on the county tabs below for more information.

Cherokee County: May 19th

You can click here to see the video of the meeting.

Opening Welcome and Context– Dean Hybl 

Initial Questions – Dean Hybl and/or TATT Board Members 

Within your county, what has been the impact and response around the following areas? 

  • Personal Well-Being (social services and health care)

Tammy Bright (United Way of the Piedmont):

    • Their center is not open; only one person is there doing emergency work, others working from home.
    • There is a lot of need, mostly with rent/mortgage, water bills, power, etc. Most need is due to job/income loss. These are mostly NEW clients (not the usual people seen).
    • People are encouraged to use the 211-resource line since there are funds available. Food available.
  • Manufacturers and other larger employers

Ken Moon (Cherokee County Development Board):

    • Unemployment numbers are high because of high concentration of restaurant/retail employees
    • Partnered with Chamber of Commerce on newsletter to small businesses.
    • Industry pivoted quickly, switching to make PPE
    • On a scale of 1-10, he ranked it 6-8
  • Local (non chain or franchise) Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Brian Ziegelheafer (BGEN business incubator):

    • Small businesses and entrepreneurs have applied for unemployment more than they’ve applied for PPP and other federal funds, but they’re using both
    • Businesses are using all options, including microloans
    • The Big E is challenged by restrictions and is appealing them
    • Surprisingly, small businesses are doing OK, but restaurants are not. 3-4 restaurants have closed permanently
    • On a scale of 1-10, he ranked it 6
  • Restaurants & Retail (see Brian’s response above)
  • Education
  • Local & county governments

Pat Luker (City of Gaffney):

    • Emphasized she is only speaking from her specific job role and she’s working from home
    • There are drop boxes available, forms have been moved to the lobby
    • Information is put online and sent by email as much as possible.
    • Licenses, applications, and more info are available online
    • Holding architectural review meetings by Zoom

Have you formed new local, regional or state partnerships to address the crisis? If so, please name.

COVID-19 task force has been created and has just started meeting, with representatives from Limestone College, Spartanburg Regional, Upstate Workforce Board, small business owners, construction, etc.

 

Specific Questions Related to Economic Development – Erin Ouzts 

Before the crisis, what would you say was the health of small businesses and entrepreneurs in your community (robust, growing, average, below average)? Who were/are the “go to” resources and organizations within your community that support small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Ken Moon reported 7-9.

In what ways, specifically, has the crisis impacted those small businesses and entrepreneurs?

From the revenue perspective, stay at home orders and social distancing have had the most impact. Larger restaurants can handle more people, smaller ones might go out of business (however Olive Garden closed permanently). Cleaning guidelines are very difficult to keep up. Big E had to pre-purchase a two-month supply of hand sanitizer to reopen at a $10K expense in addition to loss of income.

What resources or strategies has your community used to help small businesses and entrepreneurs? Have there been specific challenges for your manufacturing and larger employers that is different than for smaller businesses or retail? If so, how has it been addressed?

Ken Moon – Determine biggest need, municipality perspective and small business perspective in same room yesterday. Biggest challenge is that the CARE ACT $6m stimulus per week was meant to top off income but $600 stipend was distributed on top of unemployment. Larger employers are competing with unemployment insurance and there is a disconnect between federal and state plans.

Nikoya Shaw (Upstate Workforce Board): Virtual job trainings happening. Upstate Workforce is working on mediations regarding unemployment insurance and with state to determine most efficient way to get back to work.

 

 

Specific Questions Related to Infrastructure – Michael Hildebrand (SHARON NOTES)

Given that many of the people who have been working are in lower paying service jobs and often have issues related to access to transportation, has that been a challenge for some of your businesses and workers during the crisis? If so, how has your employers or community addressed the challenge?

  • We had transportation issues pre-COVID-19 that we were tackling, and the issues were further exacerbated by COVID-19.
  • No taxis, no Uber, lot of people with no transportation.
  • Families picking up food, but no transportation. MOW had to assist to get food

As more people look to go back to work, what are some of the fundamental challenges that your community is trying to understand and address?

  • Childcare—not sure how many centers have reopened.

What has been the availability of broad band and internet within your county? Is lack of internet access a major or minor issue for your communities?

 

Social Service Needs & Challenges – Justine Allen 

  • To what level has the school district (or districts depending on the county) played a role in supporting social service needs, especially for school age children? Do you foresee that continuing into the summer?
  • What organizations have been the leaders within your community in trying to address the needs of individual residents? Have these organizations worked together or been more or less working individually?
  • Has your county been able to identify additional local financial resources to help support social service needs? If so, how has it been organized?
  • Have there been any specific efforts in your community targeted at supporting seniors? If so, what has been the result and feedback?
  • Are there clear groups of people within your community who are not being served to the level needed so far in the crisis (falling through the cracks)? If so, what support do you need to try and reach those groups?

General Wrap-Up Questions – Sharon Purvis will start and then others can follow-up 

Are there any collaborative partnerships (local, regional or state) that you wish could have been formed early on in the crisis? If so, if they were developed now, would they still be helpful?

Frannie – mentioned the recovery task force with head leaders – where to go after COVID-19, discussed by sector.

 

  • Are there any type of resources that would be helpful that maybe you have not seen or seen used in other places that might be helpful to have some exposure to for your county?

 

Frannie – Cherokee County will mirror Greenville Chamber efforts and send letters to local official regarding tax relief including legislators, senators, house of representatives. Problems with smaller businesses not being eligible due to revenue last year, not enough employees, not able to open and therefore not able to accept loans within the allotted eight weeks.

 

  • Is there a local effort that was already ongoing (we will know these in many of the counties and can specifically refer to them) that has been put to the “back burner” due to the COVID-19 crisis? If so, what is the current status and do you see the effort starting to again move forward soon? If so, what can we or others do to help?

Frannie – thing with Oscar, waiting until meet in person again. What is this?

 

Know2 – Teresa Spires working on rollout with Metropolitan Studies Institute to talk about community health needs. Grant including health and all sectors? Holding off for now on releasing data to public to make a big impact. This would be difficult to do virtually but they are considering options.

  • Given the continued uncertainty around the crisis, do you in general feel that your county is well prepared to be able to maintain support for the ongoing challenges if there is a need for 3-6 months or longer or are you concerned that resources and support could dry up and fatigue are close?

Frannie – lots of uncertainty. People trying to find ways to move forward. Hopefully not too many more businesses will close.

 

Open Up for questions from others in attendance and/or additional comments from the county participants. How long this lasts will be dependent on how much time remains in our hour.

Katherine Amidon – ways to get creative? Teresa Spires considering virtual format. Will they get level of engagement looking for to reinvigorate Know2 virtually?

Josh Fowler – trying to determine how they can help.

Ken – has faith that the state will continue to step up and get stuff when needed. Appreciates everyone’s help, including TATT’s.

 

Greenwood County: May 27th

You can click here to see a video of the meeting

Opening Welcome and Context– Dean Hybl 

Initial Questions – Dean Hybl and/or TATT Board Members

  • Start with quick survey about general impact & response of COVID-19 in county (take 1-2 minutes for people to respond)
  • Have you formed new local, regional or state partnerships to address the crisis? If so, please name.
  • Were there existing local, regional or state partnerships that you have used to help during this crisis? If so, please name

Specific Questions Related to Economic Development – Erin Ouzts

  • Before the crisis, what would you say was the health of small businesses and entrepreneurs in your community (robust, growing, average, below average)? Who were/are the “go to” resources and organizations within your community that support small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Ben Calhoun: coming into the crisis, things were very strong; Lara: As far as uptown businesses, very strong group of businesses, pre-pandemic they were flourishing, more stores and businesses opening; David Dougherty: mixed bag from Chamber perspective, incorporates nonprofits

  • In what ways, specifically, has the crisis impacted those small businesses and entrepreneurs?
  • How quickly do you think your small business & entrepreneur culture can quickly recover as sheltering in place declines?

Lara: a lot of businesses didn’t know where to turn—specifics of pivoting to curbside, interpreting the governor’s order. Getting a lot of information from Main Street USA

 

  • What resources or strategies has your community used to help small businesses and entrepreneurs? In addition to the good job Ben has done, there’s been a lot from the Chamber world

Ben—weekly webinars, content-centered, SBA programs, now more of a Q&A format, will probably pivot again and adjust content; good format for people to find out about resources; collaborations are putting us in a good position to deal with these situation in the future

  • Have there been specific challenges for your manufacturing and larger employers that is different than for smaller businesses or retail? If so, how has it been addressed?

Heather: One major industry cited COVID as a contributing factor to an already troubled facility, but otherwise, companies have been working well, some have pivoted to new product lines. For the most part it’s been positive. $40-50 million investment before council now. Seem to be positioned to see a pretty good year, trying to mitigate what we hear from industries

David: Chamber has convened mfg., none having serious problems with attendance, etc. Arms around good protocols to keep employees safe; spotty furloughs taking place, but recalls coming; mfg community is healthy and poised to come out of this well.

  • CARES act: David—banks have been very responsive
  • Dean: how did you support local businesses?

Lara: Team Greenwood, Uptown Greenwood made lists of curbside, pick-up, getting ready to kick off “we’re open when you’re ready” campaign

Stephen Gilbert—Curtains Up Coalition, trying to raise awareness of the performing arts. Theaters are not able to reopen. Theater is about the last place people are willing to come back to.

Specific Questions Related to Infrastructure – Michael Hildebrand

  • Given that many of the people who have been working are in lower paying service jobs and often have issues related to access to transportation, has that been a challenge for some of your businesses and workers during the crisis? If so, how has your employers or community addressed the challenge?

Pre-COVID, we were convening COG, county, city, office on aging, chamber and others to address transportation, trying to get plan updated, but progress stopped with COVID. Looks like there are state/federal $$ for a small, scalable transportation initiative

  • As more people look to go back to work, what are some of the fundamental challenges that your community is trying to understand and address?

 

  • What has been the availability of broad band and internet within your county? Is lack of internet access a major or minor issue for your communities?

 

Toby: Schools have used buses for wifi; particularly in the southern part of the county, lack of internet is a huge issue. If and when the gov. releases money, that’s going to be an area we try to address

Heather: not just access, but ability to pay—we’ve been looking at people in the city limits who have access to a gig but can’t afford it.

 

 

Social Service Needs & Challenges – Justine Allen

  • To what level has the school district (or districts depending on the county) played a role in supporting social service needs, especially for school age children? Do you foresee that continuing into the summer?

Toby: buses for wi-fi, a lot of food delivery

Emily: partnered with YMCA to expand food program; working on what summer programming will be

  • What organizations have been the leaders within your community in trying to address the needs of individual residents? Have these organizations worked together or been more or less working individually?
  • Has your county been able to identify additional local financial resources to help support social service needs? If so, how has it been organized?
  • Have there been any specific efforts in your community targeted at supporting seniors? If so, what has been the result and feedback?

Emily: requests for food have involved seniors—access to internet is an issue

Focus on delivery; senior food vouchers requires them to pick up, focusing on safely

Largest increase in food—small retailers, newly unemployed seek food pantries before applying for food stamps

Rent / utility assistance—will go up in the future

  • Are there clear groups of people within your community who are not being served to the level needed so far in the crisis (falling through the cracks)? If so, what support do you need to try and reach those groups?

Emily—college students are a lot of the ones who worked the jobs that were lost and were unable to get the stimulus money because they’re dependents of their parents

Denise (Lander): started a crisis fund, have assisted 50 students so far, apply through health and wellness office, max of $300, have assisted with rent, utilities, transporation, gas vouchers. Continue to raise money. Within 17 days of shutdown, money was available. Will reopen fully in the fall, faculty and staff coming back in waves in 3 phases. All back by August, training through the summer on adjustments

General Wrap-Up Questions – Sharon Purvis will start and then others can follow-up

General Wrap-Up Questions – Sharon Purvis will start and then others can follow-up

  • Are there any collaborative partnerships (local, regional or state) that you wish could have been formed early on in the crisis? If so, if they were developed now, would they still be helpful?
    • None identified
  • Are there any type of resources that would be helpful that maybe you have not seen or seen used in other places that might be helpful to have some exposure to for your county?
    • Business community needs promotion, doesn’t have money to spend on advertising to drive customers back into businesses such as targeted billboards to multi-county areas to shop local.
    • Terence – concern about legacy businesses that are not coming back? Lara – businesses have pivoted and done a great job maintaining.
    • Lara – what grants, funds available, could borrow models from other communities. Need to look to future.

 

  • Is there a local effort that was already ongoing (we will know these in many of the counties and can specifically refer to them) that has been put to the “back burner” due to the COVID-19 crisis? If so, what is the current status and do you see the effort starting to again move forward soon? If so, what can we or others do to help?
    • Not asked.

 

  • Given the continued uncertainty around the crisis, do you in general feel that your county is well prepared to be able to maintain support for the ongoing challenges if there is a need for 3-6 months or longer or are you concerned that resources and support could dry up and fatigue are close?
    • Heather Jones – working with SC Works, COG, Piedmont Tech with (Met)? closing to address re-training. Were below 3% unemployment in April. Must work smart to keep employees in Greenwood. 50-100 jobs forthcoming.

 

Open Up for questions from others in attendance and/or additional comments from the county participants. How long this lasts will be dependent on how much time remains in our hour.

Final Wraup – Dean Hybl and/or TATT Board Member

Survey to Participants:

  • Within your county, what has been the impact and response to the COVID-19 crisis in the following areas? For each one, on a scale of 1-10, do you feel the needs of specific stakeholders/community has been addressed?
    • Personal Well-Being (social services and health care)
    • Manufacturers and other larger employers
    • Local (non chain or franchise) Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs
    • Restaurants & Retail
    • Education
    • Local & county governments

 

Laurens County: May 28th

You can click here to see a video of the meeting.

Opening Welcome and Context– Dean Hybl and a TATT Board Member

  • Introduction of TATT Staff and Board Members who will be asking initial questions
  • Introduction of Leaders from that county who are on the call
  • Ask others who are listening to share their name and company/organization through chat

Initial Questions – Dean Hybl and/or TATT Board Members

Start with quick survey about general impact & response of COVID-19 in county (take 1-2 minutes for people to respond)

Results from 15 RespondentsWithin your county, how do you feel the needs of your local and county governments have been met?
Rate from 1-10.
1=not met at all; 10=met on all levels
Within your county, how do you feel the needs of your local (non-chain or franchise) small businesses and entrepreneurs have been met?
Rate from 1-10.
1=not met at all; 10=met on all levels
Within your county, how do you feel the needs of your schools, colleges, and universities have been met?
Rate from 1-10.
1=not met at all; 10=met on all levels
When it comes to social services and health care in Laurens County, how do you feel your community’s personal well-being needs have been met?
Rate from 1-10.
1=not met at all; 10=met on all levels
Within your county, how do you feel the needs of your restaurants and retail stores have been met?
Rate from 1-10.
1=not met at all; 10=met on all levels
Within your county, how do you feel the needs of your manufacturers and other larger employers have been met?Rate from 1-10.
1=not met at all; 10=met on all levels
 Average7Average6Average7Average7Average6Average8
 Mean7Mean5Mean7Mean7Mean6Mean7
 Min5Min1Min3Min3Min3Min5
 Max9Max10Max10Max10Max10Max10

Have you formed new local, regional or state partnerships to address the crisis? If so, please name.

Amanda Munyan (President & CEO, Laurens County Chamber of Commerce): Laurens County recovery task force—a lot who are on this call. Discovery phase, gathering information, inviting different people, one-on-one conversations. Figuring out where we need to collaborate.

Justin Benfield (COO, Prisma Health Upstate Southern Region): having stakeholders around the table is helpful. Need to do a better job of communicating around the county. Work is being done, but people don’t know.

Were there existing local, regional or state partnerships that you have used to help during this crisis? If so, please name.

Jonathan Irick (Executive Director, Main Street Laurens): When COVID started, we were having Finally Friday event, and that Monday, our downtown network got started sharing best practices, etc. Group photos, video. Mayor did videos, and others. Mainstreet SC is under municipal association of SC

Ernie: COG board sent out information on compliance, regulations, etc.

Alesia Carter (Executive Director, United Way of Laurens County): UW of SC, OneSC, agencies that we fund we’ve been in contact with, also other nonprofits to help where needed

Specific Questions Related to Economic Development – Erin Ouzts

Before the crisis, what would you say was the health of small businesses and entrepreneurs in your community (robust, growing, average, below average)? Who were/are the “go to” resources and organizations within your community that support small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Jonathan: pretty robust, and has stayed that way. New businesses getting ready to open. Some working on interior/exterior uplifts

Ben Calhoun (Area Manager, SCSBDC): Coming in, we were on pace to have a record year for new business startups, positive momentum until March, very healthy

Amanda: Agree with Jonathan and Ben that we were growing, but businesses that have been here for many years were average and we didn’t realize it—no social media, etc. 

In what ways, specifically, has the crisis impacted those small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Jonathan: paying employees under the table couldn’t get PPP because they couldn’t show employees; a lot have said they’re not eligible for any funding

Ben: heard from some that banking relationship isn’t accepting their business—connect with SBDC

How quickly do you think your small business & entrepreneur culture can quickly recover as sheltering in place declines?

Ben: clients I’ve worked with are a mixed bag—depends how prepared they were going in, with cash flow, social media, etc. Others haven’t gotten far in strategic planning, etc.

Ernie: worry about businesses in outlying areas, depend on lake traffic for livelihood. Laurens and Clinton will be fine

What resources or strategies has your community used to help small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Amanda: Main Street Laurens did a survey to gauge comfort of residents to return to businesses, created a “smart start” playbook, did a couple of workshops, Ben Calhoun has been doing small business workshops, Jonathan did virtual workshop on opening workshop back up

Jonathan: $10K grant from Main Street USA, technology audit, goal is to be done before holiday shopping season, checklist to see where businesses are with social media, marketing, etc. Grant $$ to help get businesses online

Amanda: utilized social media campaigns that were already in place—#thinklocalLaurensCounty, started local business video

Have there been specific challenges for your manufacturing and larger employers that is different than for smaller businesses or retail? If so, how has it been addressed?

Lynn Finley (Assistant Director, Laurens County Development Corporation): largest impact for mfg was automotive, which had already softened prior to the pandemic, that’s the group we saw to have the greatest impact. Unemployment claims (currently at 14.2%), 40% of workforce tied to mfg. Majority of mfg going back into operation in May, should show decrease in unemployment. A lot of success stories: fortunate that we’re diversified, a number saw increases and were hiring during the pandemic. New mfg has come to the county. Haven’t learned of any that will permanently close. Still having RFIs and site visits.

Ernie: very important to shore up the development corporation, it’s been invaluable to the county

Are there legacy business that won’t come back?

Jonathan: Don’t have any that we’ve lost permanently, one or two that I’m concerned about, almost all are open in some capacity, some never closed at all.

Specific Questions Related to Infrastructure

Given that many of the people who have been working are in lower paying service jobs and often have issues related to access to transportation, has that been a challenge for some of your businesses and workers during the crisis? If so, how has your employers or community addressed the challenge?

Ernie Segars (Retired Laurens County Administrator): in years past it’s been a terrible problem because we didn’t have any, issues with hospital access. It’s a big county, a lot of rural areas completely untouched. Looked at a Laurens/Clinton connection, money was always a problem. Chronic problem that needs to be addressed.

Justin: outside of the one private sector transp resource, not sure if he’s been impacted

  • As more people look to go back to work, what are some of the fundamental challenges that your community is trying to understand and address?
  • What has been the availability of broad band and internet within your county? Is lack of internet access a major or minor issue for your communities?

Alesia: teachers have talked about internet access and that there are a lot of areas without access because students had to get somewhere that they could connect.

Ernie: niece and nephew live on Newbery line, cannot connect, 10 miles from Clinton.

Jonathan: dist. 55 had buses with wifi, also distributing lunches (Amanda: 56 did the same)

Amanda: has been a topic on our task force. SC Chamber put out a work plan outline, that’s something they’re looking at as well

 

 

 

Social Service Needs & Challenges – Justine Allen

  • To what level has the school district (or districts depending on the county) played a role in supporting social service needs, especially for school age children? Do you foresee that continuing into the summer?

Ernie: meals will continue

Justin: both school districts have task forces getting off the ground, there will be a wide variety of topics

Jonathan: schools typically continue school lunches, so they’ll probably keep doing the bused lunches

Amanda: Lakelands Y is also working with d 55 to do a summer reading program, initiatives outside of the feeding

Jonathan: rely heavily on social media, local media also do a good job of getting communication out

Alesia: SC Empowerment does food boxes for kids, go into neighborhoods to distribute

  • What organizations have been the leaders within your community in trying to address the needs of individual residents? Have these organizations worked together or been more or less working individually?
  • Has your county been able to identify additional local financial resources to help support social service needs? If so, how has it been organized?
  • Have there been any specific efforts in your community targeted at supporting seniors? If so, what has been the result and feedback?

Alesia: SC Empowerment also distributing to seniors

  • Are there clear groups of people within your community who are not being served to the level needed so far in the crisis (falling through the cracks)? If so, what support do you need to try and reach those groups?

Ernie: large poor community, need to try to contact them to meet needs

Alesia: seniors, UW gave out more than 100 food boxes, but transportation is an issue,, some seniors are afraid to come out, ask people who come to take them to others

Jacki Berkshire (PC): most students off campus right now, 12 or 13 on campus who may be homeless or safer on campus than at home. Bringing them back will be interesting. Students have an impact on small businesses. Pleasantly surprised at numbers of new freshmen and transfers. As far as meeting their needs, we’ve been able to provide support for online learning. Provided funding, made other

General Wrap-Up Questions – Sharon Purvis will start and then others can follow-up

  • Are there any collaborative partnerships (local, regional or state) that you wish could have been formed early on in the crisis? If so, if they were developed now, would they still be helpful?
  • Are there any type of resources that would be helpful that maybe you have not seen or seen used in other places that might be helpful to have some exposure to for your county?
  • Is there a local effort that was already ongoing (we will know these in many of the counties and can specifically refer to them) that has been put to the “back burner” due to the COVID-19 crisis? If so, what is the current status and do you see the effort starting to again move forward soon? If so, what can we or others do to help?
  • Given the continued uncertainty around the crisis, do you in general feel that your county is well prepared to be able to maintain support for the ongoing challenges if there is a need for 3-6 months or longer or are you concerned that resources and support could dry up and fatigue are close?

 

Union County: June 2nd

Oconee County: June 3rd

Abbeville County: June 4th

Pickens County: June 5th